Burma

Final Prosecution Witnesses in Trial of Fugitive Monk to Be Heard Next Week

By Htun Htun 3 July 2019

YANGON—Prosecutors in the sedition trial of firebrand monk U Wirathu, who has been in hiding since an arrest warrant was issued against him in late May, are expected to call their final witnesses at the next hearing on July 9.

Six of nine prosecution witnesses have testified so far.

U Wirathu was charged with sedition under Article 124(a) of the Penal Code after his incendiary remarks at an anti-constitutional amendment rally in May were deemed an attempt to incite disaffection with the government and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

After hearing from all the prosecution witnesses in the absence of the defendant, the court will decide whether or not to pronounce U Wirathu a fugitive, according to the information officer of Yangon’s Western District Court.

At Tuesday’s hearing, prosecution witness U Wai Naing, the head of the Yangon Region Religious Affairs Department, submitted to the court a video recording of remarks U Wirathu made in Myeik Township in April.

U Wai Naing said the country’s highest Buddhist authority, the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee (known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ha Na), would apply its Instruction No. 15 with regard to U Wirathu’s case.

Instruction No. 15 says, “If a monk or novice commits a particular crime, whether he is found guilty or not, only after the civilian court renders its verdict shall the concerned Sangha Nayaka Committee judge whether or not he has violated the code of conduct for Buddhist monks.”

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